House Extensions And Alterations
When economic times are tough and house prices are high, many homeowners choose to improve, extend and/or alter their existing home, rather than move. Equally, house purchasers may find and want to buy a house in a great location then remodel it to suit their specific needs.
Either way, although single or multi-storey house extensions and the alterations they involve typically mean quite a lot of upheaval, well-designed or properly managed, they can be the most cost-effective way to get the home you want. Involving an architect will give you the best chance of getting a house that suits your current and future needs.
House Extensions And Alterations – What’s The Difference?
Extensions involve adding new floor area to the exterior of an existing property, whilst alterations involve rearranging internal spaces, for example combining a kitchen and dining room into one open-plan family space. Alterations are often a consequence of extending a house to ensure that the house extension design works properly.
Altering Your House May Be Enough
The older the house the more likely it is to have been adapted to suit the needs of its various owners. Poor planning can result in spaces that are difficult to use for modern family living and have little if any connection with the garden and views. Corridors are often put up and rooms partitioned with little thought given to the overall plan and flow of the house or how these areas will be lit. It is also surprising how often the main entrance of the house is in the wrong place! Often our job is to tidy up mistakes made over many years taking a look at the whole house and needs of the occupiers current and future. It may be that we can help you achieve your objectives simply by reconfiguring your existing space.
Planning Your House Extension and Alterations
Think carefully about why and what you want to do. Is a bigger kitchen what you want? An extra bedroom? A bigger, light-filled family area with doors onto the garden? More space for older children or elderly relatives? The answer may well be all of these (and more!) but your budget and the specific features of your plot will determine what you actually do. Involve an architect at this early stage to help you take a ‘helicopter view’ of the whole building and plot so that you are aware of all the possibilities, some of which may not seem obvious to you. If this ends up in a wish list that is more expensive than you can afford we will help you prioritise and plan the project so you get the house you want, even if it involves phasing the work over time. This is invariably a better way to come up with a successful design than focusing on a particular type of extension or alteration. Using an architect will also ensure that your extension is properly integrated into the planning of the existing house and its external elevations, which is crucial if you are in a Conservation or other designated heritage area.
Many small extensions such as conservatories and loft extensions are simple and do not need the design input of an architect.
Do House Extensions and Alterations Add Value?
There is no guarantee that architect-designed extensions and alterations will add value to your property. However, in our experience, extensions generally do as they add floor space that will enhance the property’s future value. Indeed over the years we have helped clients significantly increase the capital value of their home and realise healthy profits on its sale. Key to this is great design, detailing and the quality of the work which make all the difference. For example, large carefully-placed windows and sliding doors that frame the views, clever lighting systems and double-height spaces are often considered by prospective buyers to be the ‘wow’ factors that are worth paying extra for. Offers can go even higher if the property also has energy saving solutions that reduce bills and sound insulation so that the whole family can be doing ‘their own thing’ without disturbing each other.
Conversely, house alterations do not always add value. Rearranging the rooms to a different configuration needs to make a really important change to justify the costs involved. Refitting a kitchen or bathroom may be important from a lifestyle point of view, but if you are replacing kitchens or bathrooms that are perfectly functional, but not to your taste, others may not see the same value.
Contemporary Alterations and Extensions
We have altered and extended many traditional, listed and modern buildings over the years using our knowledge of the planning process and our understanding of clients’ needs to create designs that are appropriate for modern living but respect the existing building’s scale, form and materials. Done well, the result is clean, timeless and very appealing.
For example, for a family in Sevenoaks, we connected the large main house with a garden annexe to create an indoor pool, added a double garage, doubled the size of the living room by adding a single storey modern extension, and removed a badly designed, cramped porch replacing it with a bigger, well designed canopy.
The main entrance is a common problem in older family houses. Front doors, which are often insignificant or in the wrong place, lead to tight hallways ill-adapted to accommodate the number of children, visitors, animals typically needing to use them – let alone cater for online shopping deliveries. We are currently adding to a double-fronted Victorian family house in Tenterden, Kent, an entrance porch to enlarge the hallway and make a grander entrance, rebuilding the existing roof to create two further bedrooms and shower room and putting in three dormers to add space and light.
Introducing large doors and windows to benefit from the garden views and give easy access the garden is another hallmark of jhd design. See our Extensions and Alterations Project Portfolio for details of these and other projects.
Planning Permission For House Extensions In Kent and Sussex
If your property has never been extended, is not listed and outside an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or Conservation Area, we may be able to help you achieve a surprising amount by exploiting your Permitted Development (PD) rights which allow you, subject to limits on size and location, to extend without planning permission. Depending on your specific circumstances, you may, for example, be able to:
- Add a single-storey side extension
- A two-storey rear extension
- Add rear and side dormer windows to increase the floor area of a loft conversion
- Build a home office, swimming pool, recreation room in your garden
- Add a garage, carport or front porch
PD restrictions apply to the majority of projects we look at in Kent and Sussex.
You will need to apply for planning permission if your PD rights have been removed, or you want a bigger scheme than they will allow. Proposals that do not affect your neighbours’ light or privacy – such as single-storey extensions – are likely to be more straightforward but are not necessarily the most popular. Do take advice about these however because the calculations involved can become complex, especially where your house is in a Conservation or other heritage designated area.
The Reality Of Extending And Altering Your Home
Altering and extending a property whilst you are still living in it is a challenge that tests the most patient client and the best builder as the work needed will inevitably interfere with everyday life. Whenever and wherever possible, we programme the project to make the house extension watertight and secure before breaking through to the existing house and starting any alterations.
Major alterations will often force you to move out for a period of time if only to retain your own sanity. Moving out can also speed things up as it allows the builder to work unhindered by safety concerns and the routines and needs of those occupying the property.
House Extensions And Building Regulation Issues
Irrespective of whether you need planning permission, the vast majority of house extensions must meet the minimum current Building Regulations requirements. These Regulations cover 14 areas including structural materials, ventilation, energy efficiency and access. You will need to let your local authority know about the work you are planning either by issuing a building notice or by sending them a set of plans. It’s really important that you get an architect to draft these to ensure that all the detailed construction issues are covered. A Building Control Officer will visit at regular intervals to ensure you are complying with the Regulations.
Some smaller works such as carports, detached garages and porches are exempt from the Building Regulations approval process. Similarly, some of the Regulations may not apply to listed buildings or buildings in Conservation Areas if the work affects the historic fabric of the building.